Solutionary Rail Briefing April 30, 2021

Solutionary Rail's approach to decarbonization: opportunities, obstacles, and pathways forward


The 3 minute intro video in the presentation is HERE, along with links to supplemental briefs and a free PDF of the book. 

As you know, the largest GHG emitters are the transportation and energy sectors. The most difficult challenge for decarbonizing land-based transport is long haul freight. The most difficult challenge to decarbonizing energy is efficient transmission. For the last 8 years, the Solutionary Rail team has been exploring the role of rail transport and rail rights-of-way in the US. We've found that multiple public goods are served by putting rail at the gravitational center of addressing intersecting environmental, economic and social crises. 

Solutionary Rail connects the dots on these challenges and can connect you with community and technical experts, offer you fresh ideas for addressing these challenges, alert you to potential obstacles and obfuscation from special interests, and provide short term policy opportunities that set the pace for long term progress. 

Resources from Solutionary Rail: 

  1. Our newest slidedeck provides a self-guided tour through Solutionary Rail.  
  2. Our 2 pager on Rail in a Time of Pandemic may also have useful framing for your policy work.
  3. This 2-page piece on assessing public interest served by balancing methods of freight decarbonization may be useful in your deliberations and provide criteria for assessing pathways to decarbonization that leverage efficiencies to minimize public harms, avoid unintended social justice, foreign policy, and climate harms.
  4. This BETA True Cost Calculator is a prototype to urge USDOT, the Administration and Congressional leaders to connect the dots on US data to characterize the public interest impacts of our current system and harmonize infrastructure solutions with public goods. Documentation on this open source tool is available HERE.
Note on Terminology:
One note of concern re terminology, when speaking in terms of "high speed rail" is that everybody seems to mean something different - using it differently situation to situation. Perhaps we can all find a way forward in which the terms are less prone to misapplication. Rapid freight and passenger rail may be one way around this. HSR could mean anything over 79mph, OR we could use "higher speed rail" for 80-124mph, with 125-155 as conventional HSR. We use "conventional" in that it can travel on shared corridors, if not shared tracks.
SR has experienced the "Ultra" HSR proponents as mostly pushing projects of/for/by tech and developer billionaires, or engineering firms like WSP that want public money without regard for public interests. SR has put out a few pieces related to this: This RailBite in our RailBites Series - and the False Solutions document it is based upon. 

If you have any questions, please contact our team at [email protected].

Presenter Bio:

Bill Moyer is the co-founder and director of the creative activism organization Backbone Campaign. Backbone popularized the use of “Kayaktivism” (use of kayaks in protest during the 2015 ShellNo! campaign). They are also known for giant puppets, light projections and training change agents in the strategic use of “artful activism” and creative organizing. While fighting against the endangerment of the Pacific Northwest as a fossil fuel corridor to Asia, Bill confronted a railroad labor advocate asking whether these coal and Bakken oil trains were really the highest use for US railroads. That railroader followed up with his own challenge to Bill, "See if you and your people can 'green'  this" as he handed Bill a 2008 white paper on "modernizing the 'Northern Transcon.'" 
At the time, Bill barely knew that that is one of the names for the rail corridor from Chicago to the Puget Sound. That challenge was the beginning of Solutionary Rail. Over the next few years Bill convened and collaborated with a team of rail, sustainability, and environmental justice experts to produce the 2016 book Solutionary Rail, a people-powered campaign to electrify US railroads and open corridors to a clean energy future. Solutionary Rail continues to grow its unconventional alliance to put rail at the center of solving problems together.  Bill lives with his wife and daughter amongst the huckleberries, ferns and firs of Vashon Island, Washington.

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